Stephanie Roche

Republic of Ireland WNT head to La Manga as Stephanie Roche goes for Puskás Award

The Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team head to La Manga tomorrow for their Winter Training Camp but they’ll all have one eye firmly on Zurich where the FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony is taking place.

Striker Stephanie Roche won’t be on the plane to Spain as she is one of the finalists for the Puskás Award which is awarded for the Goal of the Year and Sue Ronan hopes that when she joins up with the squad on Tuesday she’s have some extra luggage as, in the manager’s view, it’s the best of the three goals in contention for the top prize.

“I don’t think I am biased when I say it is the best of goal of the three. The technical ability that she showed to score the goal – to control the cross, beat her defender and score – was fantastic and I think the more people around the world see it, the more they will realise it is the best goal and I hope she joins us in La Manga with a trophy.”

The Irish squad have not been together since their final World Cup qualifier against Germany so Ronan is looking forward to getting the group together as they commence the preparations for the start of the Euro 2017 qualifying campaign in September.

“I am looking forward to getting back with the squad again. We played a lot of games in 2014 but we haven’t played since September and I haven’t had the squad together since then. La Manga proved to be a great foundation for the year ahead in 2014 and I think it will be a great help to us this time as well. We will have a training game against Norway on Thursday and we are looking forward to that as they have qualified for the World Cup and we always want to play the best.”

Some of the squad a run-out yesterday at the AUL Complex where a side made up of home-based players, and some of those in contention for the World Students Games squad, played UCD Waves and it was Wexford Youths striker Rianna Jarrett, one of five newcomers heading to La Manga with the WNT squad, caught the eye with two stunning goals and was unlucky not to finish with a hat-trick.

Unfortunately for Ronan, UCD Waves midfielder Ciara Grant picked up an ankle injury in that game and is ruled out of the trip to La Manga as is Ruesha Littlejohn with illness. Ronan is not expected to draft in replacements.

It’s certainly going to be an exciting week for Roche who heads to Zurich today to prepare for tomorrow’s Ballon d’Or ceremony before linking up with her Ireland team-mates on Tuesday and, not surprisingly, she is looking forward to it.

“We went to La Manga last year and it was a great success so I am looking forward to it. I think that the training facilities over there are brilliant. It is going to be immediately after the awards so I am hoping maybe I will have something in my bag to bring with me, but we’ll see what happens,” said Roche who admitted that she’s had an amazing time since her initial nomination for the Puskás Award.

“It’s been a brilliant time. Obviously getting into the top three is something that is a fantastic achievement for me and I am just happy I am getting to go to the awards and I am looking forward to it. I am up against two players who play for two of the top biggest clubs in the world – Real Madrid and Manchester United – and they have got a lot of supporters who will vote for their goal, no matter what, so I hope that people will continue to vote for my goal and hopefully push me towards winning it,” added Roche.

Voting for the Puskás Award continues into tomorrow’s live television programme and votes can be cast at fifa.com/puskas

To view an extended FAI TV interview with Stephanie Roche go to: http://vimeo.com/115919451

View squad lists of the participating La Manga Training Camp teams.

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